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Wagstaff’s Picks – Weekend of October 22, 2016 October 21, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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18767Here’s a secret: pick the OPPOSITE of what I pick, and you’ll make TONS of money.

Not just with football, either. Ask me about stocks & mutual funds sometime. You won’t go wrong.

Trying something a little new this week. I’m subordinating number crunching to looking more at trends and gut feelings. And considering the dinner I just had, the gut is on the upswing.

In the college games, I’ll go with West Virginia to cover 6 over TCU, Wisconsin to cover 4 1/2 over Iowa, and Utah plus 7 against UCLA.

I think West VA is looking very good, Wisconsin will not lose 3 in a row, and Utah/UCLA will be a close one.

In the pros, how about the Eagles plus 3 against the Vikings, the Raiders plus 1 against the Jaguars, and the Chargers plus 6 against the Falcons.

I think the Eagles won’t lose 3 in a row either, the Raiders are looking good, and the Chargers have kept things close even when they’ve lost games or badly blown them.

So there.

Now call that bookie & bet your life savings. You’re welcome.

Wagstaff’s Picks – Weekend of October 15, 2016 October 14, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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gambling_cat-jpgoriginalOkay, okay, my picks last week SUCKED. Got killed on some spreads, picked losing teams in others.

So therefore, I’M DUE!

No, really, that’s how it works.

Right now, I’m in sports overload –  both pro and college football are in full swing, baseball is in post-season, the NHL just started back up, and Santa Anita is in its fall meet.

AND I’m halfway through the edit/revision of the new Wagstaff novel draft before it goes off to the proofreaders/test audience.

AND my ten year old desktop died, and since replacing the logic board was ridiculously expensive unless I did it myself (which is just, well, NEVER happening), I opened it up and mined it for parts instead.

AND I just fixed one of my toilets. (I need more than one. It’s complicated.)

Anyway, in the college games, I like Nebraska to cover 3 over Indiana, Texas Tech plus 1 1/2 against West Virginia, a we-need-to-recover-from-last-week’s-upset Houston by 21 over Tulsa, and in another “iffy” pick, Washington State to cover 7 1/2 over UCLA.

In the pros, just a pair: the Steelers by 7 1/2 over the Dolphins, and the Falcons plus 6 against the Seahawks. The Eagles by 3 over the Redskins was tempting, but both of those teams strike me as running hot/cold at odd times.

AND now it’s time to make dinner. Red clam sauce pasta, ooooh yeah….

Wagstaff’s Picks – Weekend of October 8, 2016 October 6, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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cap4905le-pngoriginalI was no better than a coin flip last week, I’m sorry to say. I’m picking winning teams, mostly, but the point spreads are messing up my batting average. October-November is the time of year when the best information is available for picking football spreads, so hopefully my results will improve over these next few weeks.

In other news, I figured out a swell re-write for a stumbling block in editing the new Wagstaff mystery novel. It’s best to let a comic set-piece sit for a while – when I went back to it and didn’t find it as funny the second time around, I knew it needed replacing. Maybe after publishing, I’ll write a blog entry about what I changed, since I essentially swapped one true anecdote for another.

After poring over this weekend’s matchups, here’s what I’ve come up with:

In the college games, I like Minnesota plus 1 1/2 against Iowa in a game I think they can win outright. I also think Ohio State can cover 29 over Indiana, North Carolina State can cover 2 over a shaky looking Notre Dame, and in the “iffy” category, I’d take Houston to cover 17 over Navy, although I’d rather give Navy less points.

In the NFL, I like the Vikings by 7 over the Texans, the Eagles by 3 over the Lions, and the Raiders by 3 1/2 over the Chargers.

Oh, and I think the Patriots will have a different quarterback this week from what we’ve seen so far this season. That should be interesting.

Wagstaff’s Picks, Weekend of October 1,2016 September 29, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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college-football-bettingMy blog stats tell me very few people are interested in these football picks, but I’m going to keep making them anyway. I went 5-3 last week, missing both NFL picks but going 4-1 in college.

I could be making people money if they paid attention. I have a better batting average than the prognosticators in my local paper as well as what I’ve seen on ESPN & the networks, and unlike THOSE LOSERS, I’M working with point spreads!


So bear that in mind when I say that I don’t have a whole lot of big-bet confidence in nearly all of this week’s picks. Well, maybe a couple of ’em….

In the college games, I’ll go with my favorite spread-winner Ball State to cover 4 over Northern Illinois, LA Monroe plus 32 1/2 against Auburn, Arizona plus 13 1/2 against UCLA, and Ohio State to cover 38 over Rutgers.

In the Pros, I like the Falcons plus 3 1/2 against the Panthers at home, the Lions to cover 3 over the Bears, and the Vikings to cover 5 1/2 over the Giants on Monday night.

I also like that Santa Anita starts its fall meet this weekend. I’ll probably just paper-handicap it & see how the track plays this weekend and bet the next few. And no, I don’t think I’ll be posting horse picks here. I have a feeling that’d draw even fewer hits than the football.

I also like this new usb-powered external fan stand I got for my laptop since now I can actually put it on my lap without feeling like my thighs are getting sunburned.

Now editing the new Wagstaff novel will literally be cool….

Wagstaff’s Picks For 9/24 & 25 2016 September 23, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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He's tanned, rested & ready to go!!!!

He’s tanned, rested & ready to go!!!!

So now with Jacoby Brissett injured, does Edelman play quarterback for the Patriots? Does Jimmy G come back with a banged up shoulder? Do they put facial prosthetics on Tom Brady along with a fat suit and see if they can pass him off as the local high school coach who really, really wants a shot at the NFL?

I guess we’ll see.

But it’s getting ridiculous. Maybe we’ll really get to see how great a coach Belichick is when he plays a game with NO quarterback and still manages to win.

Suit up Steve Grogan, I say.

Anyway, to my picks. Two wins, one loss and a tie last week. The ties always amaze me – on how well the odds makers can call some of these things.

There are a couple of games I’m including this week with the caveat that I think the result will be very close to the spread.

In the college games, I’ve grouped my picks into the ones I’m fairly confident about, and the ones I’m iffier about. I guess if I were in Vegas, that’d affect how much money I’d put on ’em.

In the confident column, I’ll take Ball State to cover 3 1/2 over Florida Atlantic, Michigan to cover 17 1/2 over Penn State, and Stanford to cover 3 over UCLA.

In the iffy column, put me down for Utah by 3 over USC, BYU plus 7 against West Virginia, Washington by 14 over Arizona in a game I think will be somewhere around 15 points (ugh), and Miami-Ohio plus 17 against Cincinnati.

In the NFL, I’ll take the Titans in a straight-up pick to beat the Raiders, and the Steelers to cover 4 over the Eagles.

By the way, if anyone out there is winning money from my picks, feel free to Paypal me a share. That way you won’t go to hell.


Wagstaff’s Picks For 9/17/16 September 16, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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Let’s all hear it for Jimmy G! Not only did he have a solid game against a highly-possible Superbowl team on their home turf, he gave the PERFECT Bill Belichick-approved postgame interview. They shoved a mic in his face and asked him how he felt about his showcase victory on national TV, and all he talked about was how it was a team effort, and how he wanted to watch the films to focus on the mistakes he made so that he’ll do better next time.

So, basically, take THAT Johnny Football, Ryan Leaf, and oh, JACKHAMMER-FUCK ROGER GOODELL while we’re at it.

Thus endeth my Patriots rant for the week.

I have NO NFL picks for this week. I don’t like any of the spread matchups, and as last week’s results proved, it’s just too damn early to outguess the oddsmakers on some of these things. Both my losing picks missed by 1 point, both winning ones did just fine, but you could’ve flipped a coin for the same results statistically speaking.

I think I have a little more to go on for college picks, so here we go: In probably the best game of the weekend, I’ll take Louisville to upset Florida State in a straight-up pick. Elsewhere, I’ll go with Auburn to cover 3 over Texas A&M, Ohio State to cover 1 1/2 over Oklahoma, and Nebraska to cover 3 over Oregon.

No underdogs this week.  And I don’t have to payoff the loan shark, whew!



Football Is Back! And So Are Wagstaff’s Picks. September 8, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football, Horse Racing.
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93660I spent most of my Labor Day weekend watching football & betting Del Mar.

I probably should have watched more football.

The closing days of Del Mar are ALWAYS a crazy crapshoot the way I see it. For the past several years, the pattern has been for 25-to-1 shots and up to win the non-stakes races down the card, with no discernible pattern to it whatsoever. This year, after picking likely winners in the stakes portion of a THREE MILLION DOLLAR pool pick 6 sequence (Yow!), and getting all of ’em, thank you very much…. I tried picking the other half of the races in the sequence based on whatever factors I could assume led to huge odds upsets. My horses in those races finished 2nd, 4th and way, way out of the money. So much for that thirty bucks.

I’ll be taking a break from the SoCal tracks until Santa Anita gets going again at the end of the month. The pools at Los Alamitos aren’t quite there for me yet.

In the meantime, I can regale you with football picks.

I don’t like making picks the first week of college ball, although the 11 points Houston got versus Oklahoma would have tempted me plenty in Vegas (and turned out to be right). After reviewing the odds of both college & pro games this week, here’s what I think.

In the pros, with nothing to go on but team reputation in week one, I’d take the Bengals to cover 2 over the Jets, and the Steelers to cover 3 over the Redskins.

I don’t have high hopes for the Brady-less Patriots playing in Arizona, but I hope to be pleasantly surprised. They went 11-5 with Brady out for an entire year, and Belichick could probably coach a Star Trek convention trivia panel to win an NFL game, so who the hell knows?

In college games, there’s still not a lot to go on comparative-stat wise, so I’ll go with historic patterns and my (pasta) gut and pick Ball State plus 16 against Indiana, and a wishy-washy pick of Alabama to cover 29 1/2 against West Kentucky.

Want a scientific saber-metric type approach to football? Check this article out, it’s pretty interesting.

This weekend needs to be spent editing the new Wagstaff book. It’s on the way…



The Fates Drive Me To A Yardsale August 27, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Art, Baseball, Books.
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dome-of-the-cathedral-1420-1436The only reason I saw the neon green sign pointing towards a local sale was because I took a right turn and not a left, since a car was heading towards me and I didn’t feel like stopping and waiting. I figured I’d take the equidistant alternate route to get to my first errand stop, Home Depot.

That’s right… Home Depot, on a Saturday. All part of being the manly man I am.

Anyway, I saw the sign and figured why-the-hell-not, and drove the extra block to where I saw a driveway lined with assorted chazerei.

And then the actions of the fates became more clear.

I looked through the sole box of books sitting in the driveway and found a couple of big illustrated kid books about boats & sailing I earmarked for my nephew. I noticed the ENTIRE box of books centered around boating, the sea, or Captain Horatio Hornblower.

I asked the price, and the guy told me he had more books they were planning to sell next week, and he let me take a look. Turns out it was all his father-in-law’s stuff and they were selling it all off.

More books on the sea and boating. A box of Louis L’Amour novels.

But then a box of hardcover anthologies of old comics – Li’l Abner, Dick Tracy, Superman, etc. I chatted with the guy and told him he ought to look some of them up to see if they worth more than a couple of bucks. Then I found what looked like one of the old Collier series of Hemingway from the late 30s or whatever, as well as some old book of Civil War Songs published in 1889.

Nope, did NOT buy them for 25 cents a pop & flip them for thousands on ebay, I told the guy he ought to look up what they’re actually worth, and THAT little bit of charm got me some major discounting on the sailing books and two books on Renaissance Architecture I’m looking forward to, Brunellschi’s Dome and The Feud That Sparked The Renaissance, about Brunelleschi’s rivalry with Ghiberti.  I loved visiting Florence some years ago. Maybe these two volumes will take me back there for a while, for fifty cents a pop.

And then, as my conversation with the guy went from Florence to art to history to where I’m from, we somehow found ourselves in baseball, and I got the entire biography of the yardsaler, who turned out to be a former pro baseball player who got bottled up in the Orioles organization of the early ’70s since they were overloaded with pitchers already. He had the bad luck to land in the farm system of a team with FOUR twenty game winners on their starting staff. Oy!

He recounted some stories from his minor league days, his later coaching days and so forth, but what stuck with me turned out to be something I’d almost expect from any former pro athlete.

He could recite all of his stats from more than 40 years ago.

His walk to strikeout ratio, his innings pitched, the then-future major leaguers he defeated in Class A and Class AA games in 1972, what the score was each time, you name it. I’m sure he could have told me the pitch sequence to every batter he faced if I’d asked.

We talked a bit about how the game had changed, especially for pitchers.  He told me how be blew out his rotator cuff and back before they figured out how to fix Tommy John and how it basically ended his baseball career.  It was an entertaining chat with another guy who misses playing actual hardball a lot more than I do, which is saying something.

And then Home Depot beckoned. The new a/c unit at Castle Wagstaff takes a different filter size than its predecessor. It will provide respite from the triple digit temps outside while I read my books on Florence and drink wine, perhaps. Maybe then I won’t miss playing baseball as much.

Random Thoughts On My Sports Betting Bibliography August 26, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Football, Horse Racing.
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14020c_lgSo one day while killing time between a dentist appointment and an eye doctor appointment, I wandered the nearby neighborhood and wound up in one of what’s probably one of the few used bookstores left in LA in the age of the internet.  As much as finding specific old rare stuff online is easier, browsing through smelly old stacks of long-abandoned tomes always turns up stuff I’d NEVER heard of or would have even thought of. Web surfing doesn’t quite produce the same effect.

I rolled the reach-to-the-top-shelf store ladder over to explore the top shelf of old dusty sports books, and came across a pristine copy of Sports Betting by Jim Jasper, dated 1979. A quick skim of the thing  fascinated me – not so much for the advice and system offered, but in that the 1979 world I’d stepped into involved a book suggesting I base my betting systems on the lines of BASIC he offered up for me to punch into my TRS-80 to determine whether or not Ron Guidry and the Yankees would defeat Scott Macgregor and the Orioles.

Turns out Jasper wrote two other books (at least) filled with suggested BASIC coded programs for tracking football & baseball bets throughout the year, as well as following horse tracks. I found them both at the LA Central library. I’m guessing they haven’t been loaned out in quite a while.

As out of date as they all were, Jasper’s basic theories and structures are fairly sound – he number crunches all the data he can to determine league averages in various categories, assigns some weighting in terms of home field and the like, and then bases his betting on how far above or below average particular matchups turn out to be, in both baseball and football.

In other words, a general method easily reproduced using whatever categories of comparative stats are readily available online.

Much of Jasper’s number crunching and data recording, especially when I got to the horse racing portions of the two BASIC books, reminded me of the olden days where handicappers would calculate their own speed figures and track biases. When I used to haunt the sports books in Vegas betting the tracks whenever I was there, I’d see the older guys with their notebooks filled with their own timesheets and speed figures. Old habits die hard, I guess.  I have some older horse handicapping books that painstakingly go through how to do it, like Andrew Beyer’s Picking Winners or the more recent (1995) Dave Litfin’s Expert Handicapping, but since relative speed figures are now available in nearly any racing form, there’s not much point (at least to me) in doing my own calculations. And as far as comparing the value of speed figures on Brisnet sheets versus Equifax versys the Beyer speed numbers in the Daily Racing Form… well, if I’m comparing different speed numbers calculated the same way between horses in the same race, I don’t really see what difference it makes. I’m getting comparative ratios, aren’t I?

While I use websites like Statfox to see comparative football, baseball and basketball team stats, spread records and the like, I use Brisnet past performances for horse racing, because like Statfox, they’re available free online if you know where to look.

The best basic edjumacation in reading horse past performances I can recommend would be DRF’s Brad Free’s Handicapping 101, the first book I read on how to go through the racing form. It covered everything in plain language and served as a nice launch point for studying more complex material or systems offered up by others.

My own systems? Well, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing my own book about betting methods, whether in Vegas where I can bet the team sports legally, or back home where I can bet the track in person or online. But I think I’d want to string some sort of Wagstaff story around it. This post served as  a way to empty my mind of all the things I’d probably try to work in and get them down in print. Maybe I’ll post more in the future about particular strategeries that work, maybe I’ll try to weave them into some hybrid how-to book down the line.

In the meantime, I wonder if I could dig out my old copy of Microsoft Quickbasic on floppy disc and use it to create a totally foolproof horse picking program….hmmmm…..

A Quick Post For A Quick Recipe August 18, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Cooking, Food.
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vintage spaghetti catThe On Top Of Spaghetti cookbook from Providence’s Al Forno begins to pay off.  I started with a slight variation on their simple “mother” sauce recipe, and it came out great.

So here’s what I did:

  1. Minced up 3 big garlic cloves, for about a tablespoon’s worth, and sauteéd it in a little more than 1/4 cup of olive oil until it began to turn golden, maybe two minutes over medium-low heat.
  2. Carefully (to avoid splashing) added 2/3 cup of chicken broth & 2/3 cup of red wine
  3. Brought it to a boil, then reduced to a simmer and let half the liquid boil off.
  4. Added 1 28 ounce can of crushed plum tomatoes
  5. Brought it back up to a  boil, then let simmer for about five minues
  6. Salted to taste (about a half a teaspoon), added a tablespoon of dried basil

… and that’s it! The sauce finished in those five minutes, and then I added it to some seasoned ground turkey I browned up before finishing some penne with it. The rest of the basic sauce went into refrigerator & freezer portions. This makes about 5 servings, and took a total of maybe 10-15 minutes.